The United States Provides $6 Billion Ransom to Iran

On August 10, the Biden administration announced a hostage deal with the Islamic Republic of Iran that will see five U.S. hostages released in exchange for the release of five Iranian prisoners and $6 billion of frozen Iranian funds previously held in South Korean banks. The U.S. prisoners have currently been released from prison in Tehran and placed on house arrest. They were wrongfully detained – some for several years – and their release should be celebrated. Bringing Americans home should always be a priority, but must not be done in a way that places even more Americans in danger going forward.

While the release of Iranian prisoners – mostly convicted for sanctions violations – was necessary to facilitate the release of U.S. hostages held on false charges, the release of $6 billion to Iran will likely be viewed by regime officials as a ransom payment, encouraging Iranian officials to take more Americans hostage in Iran and possibly around the world. Fetching a price of $1.2 billion per head, U.S. citizens traveling abroad are now a valuable commodity. As former House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) said, “This is a substantial amount of money for Iran, which has used money historically for damaging purposes…particularly [against] Israel for support for terrorism…It’s hard to think that it does not incentivize criminal activities to profit from them.”

The United States must act quickly to try and recoup this payment and block the Iranian regime from using these funds for terror attacks, make it harder for Americans to be taken hostage in Iran and elsewhere, and make clear the consequences for future abductions.

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Gabriel Noronha – Gemunder Center Fellow
Blaise Misztal – Vice President for Policy